Dementia is a progressive disease that affects a person’s cognitive abilities and memory. As the disease progresses, it can become increasingly difficult for an individual with dementia to live independently.
Many people with dementia eventually move into memory care communities to receive specialized care and support. This process can be complex and comes with responsibilities, one of which is handling their house. A person with dementia can sell their house, but there are complicated legal issues related to a person with dementia’s rights and property.
This isn’t a journey you have to go on alone, and there are knowledgeable people who can help.
Dementia & Cognitive Decline
Dementia is an umbrella term referring to general cognitive decline. While dementia can impair someone’s ability to keep up with daily activities, it doesn’t remove their legal right to make their own choices. This includes selling their house.
The specific cause of dementia depends on the type. However, it’s generally related to damage to brain cells that interferes with their ability to communicate with each other. The reasons why and how this happens can vary. Some factors that can increase your risk of dementia are:
- Family history
- Poor heart health
- Head injury
Dementia progresses in different ways for different people. While it’s commonly linked to memory issues, it’s not the only cause of them for seniors. It’s only when these memory issues regularly impede daily life that it may signify something more severe.
Common signs of dementia include:
- Getting lost in your neighborhood
- Trouble with memory, attention, & communication
- Referring to objects with strange names
- Forgetting close friends and family members’ names
- Inability to complete daily tasks independently
Understanding Your Loved One’s Legal Capacity
One of the most critical factors regarding whether a person with dementia can sell their house is their cognitive abilities. As dementia progresses, it can become increasingly difficult for a person to make decisions, including ones related to selling their home. For a person with dementia to sell their house, they must have the legal capacity to do so.
Legal capacity refers to a person’s ability to understand and make decisions about a particular matter. Put simply, if a court deems a person with dementia does not have the legal capacity to sell their house, they will not be able to do so. In this case, they may be appointed a guardian or conservator to make decisions on their behalf.
The court will take into account the person’s cognitive abilities, as well as any other factors that may affect their ability to make decisions. While you can’t sign documents for someone still deemed legally capable, you should be available to sit with them and help them avoid any mistakes.
Why Would Someone Want to Sell Their House?
Another essential factor to consider is your loved one’s financial situation. Sometimes the decision isn’t just if someone can sell their house, but why they would want to. For example, they may want to use the proceeds from the sale to pay for their care in a memory care community.
Consider whether the person’s assets and income will be enough to cover the cost of their care for the foreseeable future. If not, the person may need to consider other options for paying for their care, such as Medicaid or other government programs.
Suppose your loved one with dementia has indicated they want to sell their house and move into memory care. Take their wishes into account and help them through the process. However, if the person cannot make decisions about their care due to the severity of their dementia, it may be necessary for a guardian or conservator to make decisions on their behalf.
In this case, you’ll need to consider the person’s best interests, as well as their wishes and preferences, when making decisions about their care. You and your loved one should have these conversations well in advance, before their condition has taken away their ability to communicate.
Choosing the Best Time to Sell
It’s also important to consider the timing of the sale of the house. Some people may prefer to sell their homes before they move into memory care so that they have the proceeds from the sale to pay for their care. Others may choose to wait until they’ve settled into memory care before selling their house to focus on adjusting to their new living situation.
If your loved one with advanced dementia is still living in their house, it may be challenging to show the house to potential buyers. This is because if they’re at the stage where you need to act as their guardian, it may be difficult for your loved one to understand and participate in the process of selling. Therefore, hiring a real estate agent or attorney may be necessary to help sell the house.
Moving Into Memory Care
Just because a person has dementia, it doesn’t mean they lose their right to control their future. If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia but is still capable of communicating their desires, it’s your responsibility to be an ally for them.If the time has come for memory care, our Fox Trail Memory Care Team in Princeton is ready to help. Book a tour and see what boutique-style living can be like.